Just As I Am, I Come To You - The History

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A Note From The Author, Elizabeth Rose: 

Hello, and thank you for visiting this blog! I feel so honored to be able to share this song, and the others from my album “Peace Like A River” with you. I hope that they touch your heart and soul deeply. 

When I was considering the songs that I would record for this compilation, it came to mind that for many of the old hymns, worshipers may not know the history of the author or the significance of the song throughout history. This led me to the idea of writing a “History & Bible Study” to go along with each song. As a teaser, I want to share the history of the song “Just As I Am, I Come To You” in this blog. If you would like the entire “History & Bible Study”, you can may purchase the the digital download of the album in the SHOP on this website. 

I hope this is a blessing to you, your church or home group, and that you will share the wonderful depth and spiritual revelation of this song with those you care about. 

With Love, Elizabeth Rose

 

Introduction

When you read the words “just as I am”, what comes to mind? When I think of this phrase it puts me into a mindset of being in the moment, simply being, not trying to change anything or be good enough. It is a little bit of a “get out of jail free” card when I’m consumed in self-judgement and feeling like I’m not enough. 

In context with the song, it is a reminder that I don’t have to be perfect to come before the Lord in prayer and worship. I don’t have to show up to church with the perfect hairdo and polished nails and say all the right things and put on a big fake smile. It’s a reminder that I can come to the Lord just as I am and He promises in His word to meet me in the secret place of His presence. I don’t have to be all cleaned up and healed up and made up. The Lord can do a full makeover when I am in His presence, when His love penetrates the deepest levels of my heart and soul. 

When Charlotte Elliott wrote the song “Just As I Am”, it was during a moment of feeling useless. She questioned her life having any true meaning and significance. 

Charlotte Elliott’s Family, Early Life & Faith

Born at Westfield Lodge in Brighton, England on March 18, 1789, Charlotte Elliott was an English poet, hymn writer, and editor. Her grandfather was the Reverend Henry Venn of the Clapham Sect of Huddersfield and Yelling, England. In 1763 Henry wrote The Complete Duty of Man and was one of several influential ministers whose ministry and writings bright about “The Great Awakening” of the 18th century among the churches of Great Britain. 

In 1757 Reverend Henry Venn married Eling Bishop, the daughter of Reverend Thomas Bishop who was a Minister at Tower Church in Ipswich, Suffolk, England. Their eldest daughter, Eling Venn, later married Charles Elliott on December 20, 1785. Charles was a silk merchant from Clapham and Brighton, England. 

Eling and Charles Elliott had six children, of which Charlotte was the third born. Charlotte’s siblings were Henry Venn Elliott and Edward Bishop Elliott, who were members of the clergy and engaged as assistants to the vicar, rector and parish priest of St Mary the Virgin Church and St Mark's Church respectively. Henry Venn Elliott was also the founder of St Mary's Hall in Brighton.[4] There was also a sister, Eleanor.

As as child, Charlotte was highly educated and had a passion for music and art. At an early age, Charlotte began to be aware of her sinful nature and of her need to resist sin's enticements. Charlotte felt unworthy of 'God's Grace' while growing up and was incapable of facing a righteous and perfect God. She was continuously told by different pastors at the many churches that she visited to pray more, study the Bible more and to perform more noble deeds.

Career

Charlotte Elliott spent the first 32 years of her life in Clapham, England. As a young woman, she was gifted as a portrait artist and a writer of humorous verse.[7] She became a favorite in non-religious social circles. In 1821 a severe sickness prevented her from joining in social activities and led her to feel a need for a personal Savior. 

About this time, the Reverend Dr Cesar Malan of Geneva, who was on a visit to her father's Clapham residence, Grove House,[4] asked her whether she was at peace with God. Charlotte resented this question at the time and refused to talk about it that day. A few days later she called on Dr Malan and apologized, saying she wanted to cleanse her life before becoming a Christian. Malan answered, "Come just as you are," and she committed her life to Christ on that day.[7] 

A letter from Malan (dated May 18, 1822) closed with, "Dear Charlotte, cut the cable, it will take too long to unloose it; cut it, it is a small loss; the wind blows and the ocean is before you – the Spirit of God and eternity." This friendship became lifelong. Its beginning on May 9, 1822 was always regarded, according to her sister, as "the birthday of her soul to true spiritual life and peace”.[8]

Thankfully, a visit to Normandy helped improve Charlotte’s health, but in 1829 she once more became an almost helpless sufferer, with only occasional intervals of relief. In 1833, Charlotte’s father died. 

In 1834 she worked as the editorial supervisor of The Christian Remembrancer Pocket Book. She edited this annually for 25 years and many of her poems appeared in it. In 1836 Charlotte also enlarged and anonymously edited the pre-existing edition of Invalid's Hymn Book. She contributed 115 hymns, including "Just as I am, without one plea”. In 1835 she contributed several hymns to a selection of Psalms and Hymns by her brother, Reverend Henry V. Elliott. And in 1836 she published Hours of Sorrow Cheered and Comforted. Her Morning and Evening Hymns for a Week was printed privately in 1837, and published in 1842.[9]

Visits to Scotland in 1835 and to Switzerland in 1837 benefited her considerably.[9] Her sister-in-law, Henry's wife, died in 1841. Her mother, after a year of severe illness, died in April, 1843. Two of her sisters soon followed. With Charlotte’s home broken up after so many deaths in the family, she and her surviving sister decided to travel throughout Europe during the summer of 1845 and made their home in Torquay. After 14 years Charlotte returned to Brighton.[9] 

Later Years and Death 

Elliott was a member of the Church of England. In later years, when she was not able to attend public worship, she wrote, "My Bible is my church. It is always open, and there is my High Priest ever waiting to receive me. There I have my confessional, my thanksgiving, my psalm of praise, and a congregation of whom the world is not worthy – prophets, and apostles, and martyrs, and confessors; in short, all I can want I find there.”[8]

A volume of Poems appeared in 1863, and her brother Henry died in that year.[9] Once only, in 1867, did she venture again from home, spending a few weeks in a neighboring village. In 1869, she fell seriously ill but managed to recover.[9] She died at 10 Norfolk Terrace, Brighton, on September 22, 1871[9][3]. She was buried alongside her brothers in the churchyard of St Andrew’s Church in Hove, England. 

Elliott was a distant relative of English writer, Virginia Woolf.[10]

The International Influence of “Just As I Am”

Out of the 150 hymns and poems written by Charlotte Elliott, Just As I Am is the best known. Dr Billy Graham and his team used this hymn in almost every one of their crusades, since it presented "the strongest possible Biblical basis for the call of Christ." [11] 

The historian of hymnody, Kenneth Osbeck, wrote that Just As I Am had "touched more hearts and influenced more people for Christ than any other song ever written." [12] 

Christian writer Lorella Rouster called it "an amazing legacy for an invalid woman who suffered from depression and felt useless to God's service."[13] 

Dr John D. Julian wrote: "Though weak and feeble in body, she possessed a strong imagination and a well-cultured and intellectual mind.... Her verse is characterized by tenderness of feeling, plaintive simplicity, deep devotion and perfect rhythm. She sang for those in sickness and sorrow as very few others have ever done.”

 

Personal Reflection on the Life of Charlotte Elliott

  1. Can you relate to any part of Charlotte’s life?

  2. Did Charlotte’s perseverance through sickness, doubt and loss of loved ones give you hope in areas of your life that are challenging?

  3. Have you ever found yourself questioning the meaning of your life and if you have purpose?

Remember Genesis 1: 26-28 

26Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness, to rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, and over all the earth itself and every creature that crawls upon it.”

27So God created man in His own image;

in the image of God He created him;

male and female He created them.

28God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that crawls upon the earth.”

 

The Birthing Of A New Chorus: Note from Elizabeth Rose

One day as I was practicing this song in preparation to go into the recording studio, I began hearing an additional melody and lyrics. They fit together seamlessly, the old and the new. I quickly wrote down the words flowing from my mouth and the chords so gracefully echoing from the piano keys. Maybe it was the cry of my own heart as I sang …  

“Just as I am, I come to You,

With nothing to give, but my heart and my soul.

I need You, each and every hour. 

Tune my heartbeat to Yours,

As I rest in, Your love.” 

It bring me great joy to add this chorus to such a timeless and influential piece of music. I hope it rings true for you as you embrace the old and the new with this version of Just As I Am

Let’s Take A Look At The Lyrics

VERSE 1

Just as I am, without one plea

but that Thy blood was shed for me,

and that Thou bidst me come to Thee,

O Lamb of God, I come.

VERSE 2

Just as I am, and waiting not,

To rid my soul of one dark blot.

To Thee whose Blood can cleanse each spot.

Oh Lamb of God I come, I come. 

VERSE 3

Just as I am, though tossed about

with many a conflict, many a doubt,

fightings and fears within, without,

O Lamb of God, I come.

VERSE 4

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,

wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve:

because Thy promise I believe,

O Lamb of God, I come.

Chorus (lyrics & music by Elizabeth Rose)

Just as I am, I come to You,

With nothing to give, but my heart and my soul.

I need You, each and every hour. 

Tune my heartbeat to Yours,

As I rest in, Your love. 

Note from Elizabeth Rose: If you enjoyed this history and would like the accompanying bible study that follows the lyrics of the verses, incorporates scripture, and has a section of personal application, the PDF download is a BONUS when you purchase the album “Pease Like A River”. Visit the Shop tab or CLICK HERE to purchase the album as a digital download.


References:

1. Gall & Inglis 1875, p. 217.

This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Gall & Inglis (1875). Gleanings from the sacred poets, with biogr. notices of the authors (Public domain ed.). Gall & Inglis.

2. Hatfield 1884, p. 230.

This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Hatfield, Edwin Francis (1884). The Poets of the Church: A Series of Biographical Sketches of Hymn-writers with Notes on Their Hymns (Public domain ed.). A. D. F. Randolph.

3. Boase 1892, p. 981.

This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Boase, Frederic (1892). Modern English Biography: A-H (Public domain ed.). Netherton and Worth.

4. Hatfield 1884, p. 228.

This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Hatfield, Edwin Francis (1884). The Poets of the Church: A Series of Biographical Sketches of Hymn-writers with Notes on Their Hymns (Public domain ed.). A. D. F. Randolph.

5. Julian 1892, p. 163.

Petersen, William; Petersen, Ardythe (12 January 2015). The Complete Book of Hymns. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. ISBN 978-1-4143-3140-9.

6. "Biography of Miss Charlotte Elliott, 1789–1871. (Spiritual Songsters)". STEM Publishing. Retrieved 29 January 2018.

7. Petersen & Petersen 2015, p. 345.

Petersen, William; Petersen, Ardythe (12 January 2015). The Complete Book of Hymns. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. ISBN 978-1-4143-3140-9.

8. Nutter 1893, p. 131.

This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Nutter, Charles Sumner (1893). Historic Hymnists: A Portrait Gallery of Great Hymn Writers (Public domain ed.). C. S. Nutter.

9. Hatfield 1884, p. 229.

This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Hatfield, Edwin Francis (1884). The Poets of the Church: A Series of Biographical Sketches of Hymn-writers with Notes on Their Hymns (Public domain ed.). A. D. F. Randolph.

10. Wojtczak 2008, p. 130.

Wojtczak, Helena (2008). Notable Sussex Women: 580 Biographical Sketches. Hastings Press. ISBN 978-1-904109-15-0.

11. Crusader Hymns & Hymn Stories, p. 33.

12. 101 Hymn Stories, Kregel

13. Lorella Rouster,"The Story of Just As I Am", Sunday School Times & Gospel Herald, Summer Quarter 2007, Union Gospel Press, Cleveland, OH, p. 50.




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